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FirstHealth of the Carolinas

Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust

When the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust funds a program to improve community health services, it tries to make sure the money will be used wisely to do the most good. Edgar Villanueva, program officer in the Trust’s health care division, says he doesn’t worry about that when he makes a grant to FirstHealth.

“FirstHealth really understands community health, which is what we are most interested in,” he says, “because our mandate is that our funds have to benefit low-income people. To find an organization that has the capacity, the infrastructure and the know-how to reach that population is sometimes challenging. But FirstHealth is definitely one of those organizations. They have what it takes to get community health messages and programs out to the population that we are most interested in reaching.”

According to Villanueva, the relationship between the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and FirstHealth’s Community Health Services department has developed into one that is mutually beneficial.

“They benefit from our funding, of course,” he says. “But they are also a valuable resource for me as a grant maker. They have helped keep me educated and up to date on the latest developments in community health.” Villanueva has also been impressed by FirstHealth’s willingness to share.

“They have provided a lot of technical assistance to organizations in other communities that we were interested in helping,” he says. “They are always willing to reach out a hand.

“That is something we value in a grantee. We want our gifts to keep on giving, so we really like to see that folks are open to sharing the lessons they learn from the programs we fund. FirstHealth is great about doing that.”

Moore Regional Hospital Auxiliary
The Moore Regional Hospital Auxiliary is dedicated to supporting the hospital and its services for patients and the community.

“The needs are ever-changing, and we are always excited about the different opportunities to help,” says 2008 Auxiliary Chair Tina Fasolak. “Virtually all of the programs we support financially are hospital or FirstHealth initiatives.”

The Auxiliary contributes funds for capital projects such as the new Heart Institute, Hospitality House and Hospice House. It also supports programs that enhance the quality of care in particular clinical areas or directly benefit individual patients and their families. A large portion of the money provided by the Auxiliary is generated by the Gift Shop at Moore Regional. Cathy Mims, gift shop manager, assists the Auxiliary in the shop’s operation, and staffing is provided by employees as well as volunteers.

The Auxiliary also receives a portion of the proceeds from the vending machines located throughout the hospital.

“We are fortunate that, because of income from the gift shop and vending machines, we don’t have to do a lot of fundraising,” Fasolak says.

The Auxiliary has a signature fundraising event each year, the Holiday Ball. The annual dues that Auxiliary members pay are another source of income.

According to Fasolak, the Auxiliary is usually able to grant most of the funding requests that it receives.

“If the program is aligned with the mission of the hospital, and we feel that it will have some significant benefit, then we are happy to support it,” she says.

The Duke Endowment
“It’s a natural fit to make grants to FirstHealth, because our missions and visions are very similar,” says Mary Piepenbring, director of health care for The Duke Endowment. “We are both interested in improving access to quality health care and improving the health of our citizens. That’s why FirstHealth and The Duke Endowment have had such a longstanding and mutually beneficial relationship.”

According to Piepenbring, The Duke Endowment looks not only at the program for which an organization is requesting a grant, but also at the organization’s track record for implementing successful programs.

“Leadership is a critical factor in that,” she says. “We recognize that FirstHealth has very strong leadership. They are committed to achieving results and have shown that they are willing to dedicate the resources needed to make a program successful.

“They also have a reputation for being early adopters of not only new, but innovative programs that target very difficult issues such as health disparities among different segments of the population and meeting the needs of the underserved. They truly look at what the community needs, not just at what the hospital needs, which we commend.”

Advancing health equity and encouraging collaboration within local communities are among the endowment’s core values, and Piepenbring says she likes to see those values reflected in grant proposals.

“FirstHealth succeeds,” she says.

FirstHealth also is willing to share the results of its innovative programs, as well as the knowledge it gains in carrying them out, with any health care organization that might benefit, Piepenbring says.

“In that way, they serve as sort of a learning laboratory,” she says.

“They are happy to share information for the good of the whole state, not just for the communities they serve.”

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation likes to support organizations that have strong leadership and take creative approaches to community needs. That is what it has found in FirstHealth of the Carolinas, according to Foundation Program Officer Jamie Bussel.

“FirstHealth has extraordinary leadership; it’s enlightened and visionary,” Bussel says. “It is leadership by example and leadership by encouraging innovation and facilitating a great team spirit. It is doing the right thing just because it’s the right thing to do.”

Before the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation decides to fund a program, it tries to make sure that the organization proposing it has the commitment, expertise and resources to pull it off. FirstHealth has demonstrated all of that and more, Bussel says.

“We have found that FirstHealth takes a very sound, practical approach, but at the same time, they are creative in terms of their implementation strategies,” she says. “They have been very good stewards of our resources.”

According to Bussel, FirstHealth also seems to understand the importance of working collaboratively with others in the community to achieve the best results.

“I think there is a deep commitment to making a difference in the lives of people in the area they serve,” she says. “They really walk the walk by implementing innovative programs that address diverse populations, and always with a focus on prevention.”

American Legacy Foundation
The American Legacy Foundation recognized in FirstHealth of the Carolinas an organization with vast experience in community health services and outreach initiatives.

“We recognized that FirstHealth has a strong history of working with people in the community and responding to the needs of the underserved,” says Alesia Brody, grants program officer at American Legacy. “They also had prior experience with tobacco prevention and cessation efforts, which was one of the things we were looking for.” Brody says she has been impressed by the level of commitment of the FirstHealth staff.

“They are doing inspiring work in providing tobacco cessation services and support to tobacco-using, low-income families in their service area,” she says. “From a partnership perspective, we are grateful that FirstHealth is just as diligent in adhering to our programmatic requirements.

NC Health & Wellness Trust Fund As a state agency, the NC Health & Wellness Trust Fund (HWTF) takes special care to see that the grants it awards are used in exactly the right way and that the programs those grants support show positive results.

FirstHealth of the Carolinas has been a “productive grantee” in every initiative for which it has been funded, says Vandana Shah, HWTF executive director.

“We have been pleased with FirstHealth’s ability to provide direct services, educational outreach and related services as required to be part of the programs we have funded,” she says. “FirstHealth has been a good lead organization, providing much-needed services in the multi-county area where it has hospitals and primary care clinics.” Recipients of HWTF grants are required to submit monthly financial reports on how grant funds are being spent as well as reports detailing overall program activity. The HWTF also has “external outcomes evaluators” who gather data from grantees and measure their results against very specific program goals.

“A high-performing grantee, such as FirstHealth, is one that is doing all the right things and showing ultimate results in terms of people reached and health improvements achieved while demonstrating rigorous management oversight and financial responsibility,” Shah says.

“We have put a lot of checks and balances in place, so we are able to tell pretty quickly whether a grantee is compliant, both on the program side and the financial and administrative side. FirstHealth is one of those that do a good job on both sides.” Kellogg Foundation “People who sit in high positions don’t often put themselves on the line, but at FirstHealth, they have,” says Henrie Treadwell, Ph.D., who oversaw development of the landmark Community Voices program at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

“They didn’t just say, ‘Let’s get a grant so we can show that we got a grant,’” says Dr. Treadwell. “They put themselves into the implementation of the program. They didn’t know it was going to be successful, but they took a risk and said, ‘We need to give it a try. FirstHealth was one of our best grantees, because support from the top was always there.”

Dr. Treadwell credits FirstHealth with seeking innovative approaches to the delivery of health services.

“They look into the community and see everyone as being an individual who should have health care,” she says. “They want to make their system better so that everyone can be served. That isn’t the case with every health care organization, but it is part of the philosophy at FirstHealth.”

As for FirstHealth’s broader influence, Dr. Treadwell says, “They have not seen their role as trying to tell policy makers what to do, but simply to say to policy makers, ‘This is what we’re seeing on the ground, and this is what we think should be addressed.’” Funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Community Voices program was based at the National Center for Primary Care at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, where Dr. Treadwell is senior social scientist. Dr. Treadwell served as director of the now-completed Community Voices grant.

Program funders
The following organizations have provided funding to FirstHealth of the Carolinas programs since 1994 or earlier:

(since 1994): $3,410,000.00

Community Voices I, II & III

THE DUKE ENDOWMENT (since 1994): $4,144,423.00
Hand in Hand, Primary Care, Dental Health, Community Outreach Demonstration Project, Community Voices Initiative, Caring
for Victims of Domestic Violence in the Sandhills, Renovation of FirstHealth RMH Emergency Department, Moore Free Care
Clinic, Telemonitoring, Kids Accessing Care, FirstAccess

(since 2003): $1,227,460.00
Covering Kids and Families, Intergenerational FirstGarden Grant, Active for Life, Transition FirstGarden Grant

(since 1994): $3,587,605.00
Primary Care, Dental Health Program, Access to Health Care, School Nurse Program, Project IDEAL, FirstHealth Cares, Reaching Out, Healthy Living in the Mid-Carolinas, Renovation of FirstHealth RMH Emergency Department NC Health and Wellness Trust Fund (since 2003): $1,352,049.00
Community/Schools Tobacco Use Prevention Program Phases I & III, Medication Assistance Program Phases III & IV, Fit Together Initiative, College Tobacco-Free Campus Initiative

The following organizations have provided funding to FirstHealth programs during the last two years:

: $100,000.00

Home Free


FirstGarden, FirstFit, Men’s Health Summit, Obesity Summit, Safe Kids, Moore Little Angels

MULTIPLAN: $3,000.00





Health Net, School Nurse Program


Moore Great Beginnings, Child Care Consultant


Physician Recruitment


Kids in Crisis, FirstHealth Cares, Adult Dental Care, FirstReach